by Matt Carter
Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell have been crowned European Champions at the 2013 SKUD European Championships which came to a close in Arbon, Switzerland on Sunday (12 May).
2013 SKUD European Championships - Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell, SKUD
Rickham and Birrell’s victory is the duo’s first taste of success at this event, which saw the SKUD sailors take a clean sweep of six race wins against the ten other crews who were competing for event honours at the Lake Constance venue in Switzerland.
'It feels great to pick up our first European title,' enthused Rickham. 'It’s our first time competing at the this event so were obviously really pleased to walk away as winners and excited to kick off the new cycle with a title, it’s always nice to be able to call yourself European Champions.'
'It was great to see so many SKUD’s out on the water with the European fleet now starting to grow. We had a difficult week out on the water, even though we picked up six race wins it was challenging at times with the lack of wind in Arbon.'
Providing the toughest competition across the four day regatta for the British Sailing Team four-time World champions was the Italian duo of Marco Gualandris and Marta Zanetti who finished the regatta six points behind Rickham and Birrell in second.
'The Italians who finished fifth at the Paralympics last summer provided stiff competition for myself and Niki but I would say the toughest part of the regatta was also the challenging conditions which we were up against. The final day of the regatta was massively shifty at times so we still had to work really hard to make sure we were in control,' the 31-year-old Rickham explained.
Aside from a ‘shakedown’ at the domestic RYA Spring Series weekend event at Weymouth and Portland in March, this event was the British duo’s first taste of international racing this year.
'We were definitely rusty,' laughed Epsom’s Rickham. 'It took some time to figure a few things out but we could definitely see that we had to tighten up on our routines and refocus on a few things but all-in-all it was really nice to be back in the boat in a competitive environment where we really enjoyed our racing.'
Next up for the 2013 European Champions is the Sail for Gold Regatta at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy in June which Rickham admits will be a great regatta to compete in with some tough competition, but primarily there main focus is now towards the SKUD World Championships in August.
'The Europeans was a good chance for us to hone our skills at a light wind venue so that was good for us, but we are expecting it to be quite a breezy event at the Worlds in Ireland where we will expect to see the biggest and most competitive fleet of the year. Between now and August we will be working on our routines, going through the processes and getting back into the right mind-set to ensure we take a fifth World title,' concluded Rickham.
For results and regatta information from the 2013 SKUD European Championships visit the event website.